I am considering buying a house in Massachuseets that has electric
heat. Is electric heat now more economical considering the rising price
of gas and oil. Should I stay away from this house? Is there more than
one type of electric heat?
A home inspector will tell you if the heat is working. If it's an electric
furnace or heat pump, they might comment on the age, and anything obvious.
I've never seen a home inspector who didn't go out of his way to find some
stupid little thing wrong with a home, just to justify him getting paid.
It depends on what you call a "good deal". A lot of HVAC contractors will
come out and give you a free estimate if you own the home. Many will come
out, but will charge you for an estimate if you are just fishing to see if
buying the house is feasible. See if you can get a rough idea over the
New England has some of the highest electric rates in the country. Unless
the house is super efficient, I'd avoid it.
I'm not sure what you mean by different types of electric heat. There are
electric furnaces, baseboard, radiant floor panels, heat pumps. In terms of
operating cost, I don't think thee will be huge differences.
We're in Massachusetts, near Boston, and our home uses two heat pumps
for heat and AC, as does our rented office space nearby.
Heat pumps are more efficient than pure resistance heating of any type,
so the annual energy cost for heating will be significantly lower than
with other types of electric heat. When the temperature drops below
about 20F most of the heat is being supplied by the auxillary resistance
heaters, which makes it almost the same as using pure resistance
heating, but that's only during a couple of months each year.
I think it would be prudent for the OP to request that the seller shows
him his electric usage for the past year. If the place is being serviced
by Nstar Electric then every bill lists the KWH usage for each of the
preceeding 11 months, so a look at the sellers latest bill is all that's
required. Looking at the electric bill from someone with a similar sized
house and family not using electric heat should give the OP a pretty
good idea of the prospective home's annual heating cost.
We've been happy with the heat pumps since we built the place nearly
twenty years ago, though we did replace both compressor units last
spring as one compressor finally failed and the other was getting old.
Very little maintenance required, and IMO less chance of fire or
explosion than with fuel burning heating systems.
Happy New Year,
It would be expensive, since you'd need either a forced air or hot water
distribution system. We bought this place with elec baseboard over 20 years
ago, and the first really cold-month heating bill scared me into wood heat.
$800 for one month in 1983!
We stayed with the firewood furnace for 12 yrs. It was work, but not
unpleasant work, to keep it going, but it's definitely a dirty proposition.
Ours was in an unfinished basement, but we still tracked bits of bark and
dust up the stairs.
Now we have a pellet stove, and even with pellets at $250 a ton we'll barely
spend $800 for heat all year Our stove is a Harman, a good brand. It's
noisier than I'd prefer, and I have to spend about an hour a month cleaning
it, but we've been warm for years. It runs by elec, and will go out if the
power fails. That's not a frequent problem here, so knock on wood. Our
stove cost about 2K new; probably lots more now, but when I looked into oil
heat and a baseboard hw system at the time, it would have been about 14K -
mostly for labor because a retrofit is a lot of work. Oil and gas aren't
free either, so wood heat is something to consider, and pellets make heating
with wood relatively easy. The cost of entry is what sold me.
Electric furnaces have heat loss thru the ducts in unconditioned spaces.
Radiant floor panels have a slight heat loss to the basement or crawl space.
Radiant ceiling has some heat loss to the attic. Electric baseboard is 100%
efficient. Heat pumps can be 300% to 400% or more efficient, it depends on
It depends on the local prices of fuel, the type and efficiency of the
heating systems (including the electric). Don't let all the hype about
rising cost of gas and oil confuse you. Electric is also rising in most
areas. Many areas use gas and oil to make the electricity. The cost of all
energy is going up.
I suggest you have a home inspector take a look and get a report on the
heating system along with everything else. After all, any heating system
can be replaced, so it is only one part of the calculation and one that can
That depends on many many factors. Baseboard electric is quiet and
effective. You are not likely to find a more comfortable system. However
you may find that an oil or gas system is cheaper in the long run. You will
need to get some information locally for that. You will need to know how
much the changeover will cost (an on site estimate is necessary) and you
will need to know the cost of each fuel (which means guessing what is going
to happen in the future).
Most states require that the home owner disclose to prospective buyers how
much it has cost to operate the utilities.
Straight electric resistance heat is almost always going to be more
expensive. If the house has an electric furnace, then you may be able to
switch to a heat pump.
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